Malaysia Imposes Targeted Lockdowns to Battle Virus Wave

Malaysia will place most of the country under some form of lockdown for two weeks starting Wednesday as it intensifies efforts to quell the surge in coronavirus infections.

While five essential sectors including manufacturing, construction and agriculture, will remain open, interstate travel will be banned throughout the country, Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said in a televised address on Monday.

The decision came after the government forecast daily cases could jump to 8,000 by late March or late May, based on a predictive modeling analysis. Daily cases hit a record-high last week.

“Our healthcare system is under tremendous pressure now than at any other time since the start of the pandemic,” said Muhyiddin. “As I have said before, unprecedented situations call for unprecedented measures.”

Malaysia has struggled to contain a fresh wave of infections fueled by a local election in September. While the government imposed fresh curbs in most states, restrictions on travel and tourism were eased in December to provide the consumption-based economy some breathing space. The easing led to new cases topping 1,000 daily for most of the past month, and stood at 2,232 on Monday.

The country also found a variant of the coronavirus similar to the strain discovered in Britain, Health Director-General Noor Hisham Abdullah said in a Facebook post Monday night. The traveler was found to be positive on Dec. 28 and had been isolated for further treatment, he said. So far, no local transmission had been found in connection with the U.K. B.1.1.7 mutation virus, Noor Hisham said.

Measures announced Monday include:

  • Those residing in states under the strictest form of lockdown, known as the Movement Control Order, may only travel within a 10 kilometer radius and cannot cross district lines
    • Areas under MCO are Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya, Labuan, Selangor, Penang, Melaka, Johor and Sabah
  • Social activities that involve large gatherings are banned
  • Work-from-home orders will be issued to all working in non-essential sectors
    • 30% of management level staff in essential sectors may work from the office
  • Eateries in areas under the MCO may only provide takeaway services
  • Supermarkets, health services, and banks may continue operating

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